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3 phases integration

Welcome to day 9 PSYJuly! Today we have a post from Peter Conley on integration…

Psychedelic integration is not buying a fancy new pair of yoga pants after you met “the source” during your trip. It’s not changing your legal name to your spiritual one or constantly talking about how great Ayahuasca is. Psychedelic integration is the emotional work pre and post session. 

There’s a lot to it. For this reason, I founded the organisation Integration Station, where we work specifically on helping people to integrate psychedelic experiences. We aim to deconstruct the process and provide resources to ensure the most fruitful integration possible.

Integration consists of three main phases: 

  1. Preparation
  2. Session
  3. Post Session

Each step has its own nuance to it. 

Let’s start with the preparation phase.

Phase 1: Preparation 

During the preparation phase you’ll set up all you can in order to get the most out of your session. Preparation consists of: 

  • Connecting with your facilitator
  • Cleaning your diet
  • Proper sleep
  • Preparing your set and setting

Connecting with your facilitator

The deeper the bond you have with the facilitator the more likely you’ll have a better session. Deeper bonds lead to more sharing, more breakthroughs, and greater connection with yourself. How do you connect with your facilitator more deeply you may ask? Two words: quality time. The more time you spend with them building an authentic connection the better. Phone calls, in person meetings, etc.  

Cleaning your diet

The healthier you are internally the more resources you’ll have to process the trip. Disclaimer: Please consult with a medical professional before making any radical changes to your nutrition. As a general rule it’s better to eat whole foods over processed foods. Examples of whole foods are fish, poultry, grass-fed beef, vegetables, fruits, nuts, etc. Essentially if your great grandmother would recognize it as food it’s usually healthier for you. Foods to avoid would be like pizza, candy, carbs, sandwiches. 

Proper sleep

Sleep is one of the three main pillars of your health (nutrition and exercise being the other two). The average adult requires 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night. Make sure to conduct proper sleep hygiene as well. This consists of practices like no caffeine past noon, reading non-fiction before bed time, reducing exposure to “blue light” at least 90 minutes prior to bed, etc. Here is a great resource for proper sleep hygiene: Sleep Problems? 21 Tips to Get The Best Sleep Ever.

Preparing your set & setting

Setting is the physical location your trip will be in and set is your mindset going into the session. These two factors are two of the most important aspects of the entire psychedelic experience. Pick a location (setting) that will elicit calm and where you know you’ll be safe for the duration of the experience. Prep your mindset to be one of surrender however you can. 

Next I will discuss the integration processes for the actual session. 

Phase 2: The ACE Model

The ACE model comes from Dr. Rosalind Watts at the Imperial College of London. It stands for: accept, connect, and embody. This is the process she uses with clinical patients during a psychedelic session. 

Accept

It all starts with the acceptance of emotions which have been buried inside of you that you have been repressing. You must accept the fact that this is the issue and you’ve been running away from your emotions. 

Connect

After acceptance the next step is to connect with those repressed emotions. You must feel these emotions in order to process & connect with them. 

Embody

After connection comes the embodiment phase. Embodying your psychedelic experience means bringing back what came up. It is the most important part of integration if you ask me. Examples of embodiment: going to therapy after your psychedelic experience resurfaced some trauma, signing up for art classes to express yourself fully, joining an integration circle to connect with a community that understands you better. 

Embodiment requires action. 

Phase 3: Post-Session 

Processing & Editing

It’s imperative you capture what came up during your session. There are many ways to do this and no one right answer; journal, tape recorder, video. Etc. The higher fidelity the capturing device the more data you’ll have to work with. 

Coaching

Ever try to give yourself a haircut? Doesn’t really work does it? Why is that? It’s because of your blind spots. Same thing goes for psychedelic integration. Ensure you’re getting the most out of your experience by hiring a coach. You can visit the coaching page on The Integration Station to find one that’s right for you.

Journaling

Journaling is imperative to this process. You must work through and capture your emotions, thoughts, and feelings in a structured way. You will find that your integration journals can be one of your most prized possessions due to the insights they bring you. 

Pairing Modalities

To increase the impactfulness of your session you can pair your first modality (psychedelics) with another one for a synergistic effect. Need examples? Visit the modalities page on Integration Station. Examples include using EMDR with MDMA therapy, breathwork with psilocybin, and internal family systems with Ayahuasca. 

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About the author
Peter Conley is the founder of Integration Station, a resource for Psychedelic Integration. Integration Station provides protocols, tools, and awareness of modalities to improve your mental health and performance. He is a certified yoga instructor, completed a 10-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat, and advocates for the responsible use of altered states of consciousness as therapeutic modalities.